Let me start off by introducing myself through my connection to soccer and the Sounders. I have been playing soccer since I was very young and have great respect for soccer clubs and their players at all levels. I first became a "fan" of the Sounders (USL) just because they were the local team. After attending a few of their games i made the jump from "fan" to fan. As the years have passed by and as I have attended more games my love for the team has grown. I now try to catch as many games as possible, know the players, read up on the current happenings, and more things along those lines.
Well, not to bore you with the back story, let me get into the details. Like I mentioned previously, I started following the team back when they were just a USL team. They would play a couple matches in Kent and then go to Round Table Pizza afterwards to sign autographs. I always wanted to go and meet the players and get their autographs but the place was always swarming with little kids and it would have taken too long to get to the players. Now that the team has gone from being a smaller team to being Seattle Sounders FC of the MLS I thought that the days of having a meet and greet with the team was over.
I have been to many different types of Sounders games in the past such as league matches, CONCACAF Champions League matches, and International friendlies but I had never been to an Open Cup match before last night. When I arrived at Starfire, the atmosphere was very similar to the feel of Qwest field (or CLink, CLF, or whatever you want to call it) just on a smaller scale. During halftime Fredy Montero was walking back to his box seat and I decided just to call his name just to say hi, I was amazed that he actually looked up and waved at me. I had always pictured him as a prima donna but this simple gesture helped to start change his image in my mind.
When I was leaving the stands, I saw that there were crowd control fences set up leading from the field to the locker room where fans had lined up to get autographs. Once again, I figured that the Sounders would pretty much ignore the fans and just act like movie stars in Hollywood, meaning that they would just smile and walk by. At the most, the players would wave and sign autographs for the little kids just to maintain a positive public image. I was pleasantly surprised. Fredy was the first one out from the field and he not only acknowledged the fans, he actually was signing for all of the fans and talking to them. When he reached me I asked about his leg and while he was signing my scarf and he answered all of my questions. Another thing that really helped to make my day (other than a Sounders victory!) was Erik Friberg. Like Fredy, Erik also had a conversation with me but the thing that he did that really stood out was the fact that he actually initiated the conversation with me. All of the players that passed by were thanking the fans for coming out and cracking jokes with the fans (here's looking at you Roger Levesque!).
I know the MLS isn't the EPL when it comes to skill levels, but the MLS is still very entertaining to watch and the players are a lot more level headed. Can you name an EPL player that would come back out to finish signing autographs after going into the locker room within a reasonable time frame? That is exactly what Mike Fucito did! He made it around halfway through the fan line before a trainer told him to come into the locker room. He claimed that he would be back out, but I doubted this and so did other fans who just left. Within the next 5 to 10 minutes, Mike came back out and signed merchandise and posed for pictures.
All in all, Tuesday was a great day for two reasons. The first being a well played soccer game (minus a few defensive lapses) and the second was seeing that the players were more than athletes that we pay to provide entertainment. They actually have personalities. I just wanted to show how much their interaction with the crowd meant to me. I will have a tough decision to make when I buy my next jersey (I need to get a replacement for my Sebastien Le Toux jersey).
I guess what I am trying to say is this:
Thank you Sounders